The Lecrin Valley is a wonderful place, rich in history and primarily an area devoted to fruit. All over the place you’ll find old and existing mills, factories for frutos secos (nuts) and of course orange, lemon and olive orchards as far as the eye can see.
Sadly over recent times with the recession and reduction in the price of oranges, the Lecrin Valley has taken a huge hit as far as its primary product is concerned. Almost all the locals sell to the local cooperative and are currently getting extremely low rates for their oranges, so many of them have just given up, because it’s not even worth them getting in the seasonal workers to help with the harvest.
Consequently you see orchards full of unpicked oranges and lemons just rotting on the ground. But the locals are still very proud of their orange tradition and every year at the end of March/beginning of April there’s a special festival devoted to the local citrus heritage – Feria de los Citricos. This takes place in Melegis, the heart of Orange country and where the cooperative is located.
Aside from the oranges and lemons, almonds and olives, there’s a huge variety of other sorts of fruits: Pomegranates, custard apples, figs, nisperos, caquis (persimmon or “Sharon” fruit), avocadoes, grapefruit, cactus fruit and even some mangoes.
Lots of these fruit trees are roadside, so you don’t have to pay for them anyway. You simply gather what you need on your daily walk! This definitely keeps a lot of the locals going. Most of the locals grown their own vegetables in their own “huertos” (huertos can be translated as orchards or vegetable gardens or even “allotment”). You can even find a lavender plantation in Restabal at Casa Lavanda.
The climate is pretty mild with the exception of a couple of cold months in January and February, and although the valley is surrounded by snow capped hills and mountains, it rarely gets frost or snow itself. So the locals have a huge repertoire in fruit and veg in their gardens, huertos and even just on balconies – all kinds of peppers and chillis, root veg, tomatoes, judías (runner beans) and all sorts of other leafy veggies. They also almost all have a grape vine or two over a roof terrace or balcony. You could pretty much be self-sufficient and survive without spending a centimo on fruit and veg, just by foraging!
As well as fruit, there are also many herbs to be found lining roadsides and up in the hills on the way up to the neighbouring Alpujarras, including wild mint, basil, rosemary and thyme. And the Alpujarras is also famous for its goats cheese and hams.
Some of the best ham in Spain comes from up in Trevelez. Trevélez (the second highest muncipality in Spain) is famous for the quality of its air-cured hams, a speciality throughout the Alpujarras, but particularly associated with the village, because the cold climate due to its altitude makes ideal conditions for storing them.
Honey is also a big product of the area – there is some in Lecrin, but mainly up in the hills of the Alpujarras and the Sierra Nevada. There’s even a honey museum in Lanjaron.
Whatever your tastes you won’t go hungry in the Lecrin Valley. See what you can find on a walk around the area. You’re sure to come back with a basket full of goodies, perfect for juicing, salads, preserves and garnishes and if you don’t find what you need the little vans that travel around the villages on a daily basis are sure to have it!